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2022 – The year I (hopefully) reach 100 books read!!!

It’s a new year which means a new chance to work towards actually achieving the goals you create! I have a big year ahead of me with the hope of becoming a full-time freelance writer and reaching the BIG milestone of reading 100 books in the year. Crazy right? But if I am going to leave corporate America, I am going to need something to fill my time. So why not read, right?

What are your goals for this year? Let me know in the comments. And as always, drop a suggestion on any books you think I should read!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley (Drama): Honeslty not a fan of this book. It took me a month to read because I could not get into it. I loved Foley’s other books, including the thriller The Guest List, but this one was a different genre and I just don’t think she was able to write as compelling of a story. It was a nice story, but I feel that it left too much unsaid (what happened with Oliver, etc).

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Thriller): Unlike my first book of the year, this one was much better. I read this in two days and it was restored my faith in reading again. Your typical thriller, this one follows the story of a husband and wife, her rich parents, and a missing baby. You learn answers pretty quickly in the story, but Lapena has a few more twists as you read on.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy (Suspense): Best book read in 2022 so far! Yes, I know this is only my third, but I think it will be hard to top this one. The way Molloy blends physchological – both the genre and actual psychology – together really pushes all the twists in this book. It’s on the shorter side which means you should be able to read it quickly!

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (Fantasy): Slow start that leads to a crazy ending! I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a suspense or thriller even though that was the impression I was under when I was recommended the book. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely not one I would normally pick. It’s fantasy, but not fairy-alien type – there is the “father” and “god” references mixed with a bit of good crazy! Probably not a super helpful review but it’s hard to describe this book!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney (Mystery): I flew through this novel. I was in the middle of reading a crime non-fiction novel when I knew I wanted a book I could zoom through – boy did I pick a good one. This novel in written in the perspective of three characters – two of which won a free stay at a secluded remodeled (maybe haunted) chapel turned home and the other a mysterious figure who we never quiet get enough information about to figure them out. The twist is good – maybe obvious depending on how close you pay attention. All in all, a great, easy to read novel.

In Search of the Rainbow’s End by Colin Caffell (Non-Fiction/True Crime) – currently reading

The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich (Suspense): I had purchased this book last year when I visited my friend in Oregon. I had read that this hook might have helped to influence Tarentino’s Kill Bill, but I’m not sure if that is accurate or not. Regardless, this classic was very well written. Originally published in the 1940s, this novel takes us through the murder of four men by a beautiful woman.

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover (Drama/Romance): I cried through the last half of this book. It is now my new favorite Hoover novel behind It Ends With Us and Verity. This was such a heartwrenching novel – predictable, but in a way that worked well. If you are looking for a good cry, I highly recommend this novel. Last I checked its free with Amazon Unlimited!

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover (Drama/Romance): After having my heart ripped out by Reminders of Him, I figured I might as well read the other Hoover novel I had on my Kindle. This one wasn’t as good, but still a cute story. It touches a lot on the mother daughter struggle after a death. I love that by the end of the book, both mother and daughter had a believable character arc.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Drama): After reading Daisy Jones and the Six last year, I was excited to read another of her books. While I think I prefered Daisy, this book was still well written and had a compelling story. I think there was some characters who could have been a little more developed and maybe a few that could have been omitted to make for a better story. Overall, I still recommend this as a nice, easy option.

Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda (Suspense): I enjoyed this book a lot. It kept my attention throughout its entirety. It is fast paced and engaging while also being easy to fly through. Miranda has a few books out and this is the second of hers that I have read and enjoyed.

We Are All the Same In the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (Suspense/Crime): Yes. Best book I have read so far this year. It was so well written – style, the way the parts and POV are broken out, everything. Very easy to read and fall in love with the characters. I very strongly recommend this modern crime novel.

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena (Thriller): Honestly, not very thrilled by this one. It’s ok, but I feel like a lot was left out. I can’t really say anything more without spoiling the ending, but unfortunately, I do not recommend this one.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (Thriller): I loved this one. I always enjoy a good book where the “bad” person isn’t who you think. I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast read and not too obvious. I could add this to a “beach read” list for sure.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Thriller): Yes, yes, yes. I take back what I have said about favorite books, this one takes the cake for sure. It’s different, so when you read the first few chapters and are confused, just wait. It gets better. The writer talks about final girls, which are women who have surived brutal attacks and lived to tell the tale. If you can put yourself in that world, the book will make more sense.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Fiction): There was a weekend that was really nice – like sit outside by the baby pool nice. I needed an easy book to read (for the second time) while I enjoyed the sun. This is a go-to for that for sure. Even though I read it last year, I still cried just as much the second time through.

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards (Thriller): I very much enjoyed this one. I did read through it in one day. I wouldn’t rate it too high though. It’s was very obvious and similar to Riley Sager’s Survive the Night. I think I prefered that one to this even though I enjoyed this one.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Thriller): I am really loving St. James as a writer. This is my second novel by the author and I have the rest of hers qued up to read next. This was decent – a solid 4/5 because it kept me interested. I wouldn’t say its the best “whodunit” it though.

Let’s Take a Day Trip to: Pittsburgh’s Bookstores

The evolution of books is a long and beautiful history. Did you know the first book—as we know them today—was published in the 1830s when book jackets were added and “cheap” novels were born? To the working class, these “penny dreadfuls” were just mass-marketed British paperback novels that cost a penny. As these books migrated to America, the term “dime novel” was coined, which roughly means a sensationalized yet superficial piece of written work. Over the next hundred years, books evolved from print to e-book versions.

Did you also know that in 1995, Amazon launched the first-ever platform for online books? Or that Stephen King’s “Riding the Bullet” is credited as the first mass-marketed online book? Or even that the launch of Amazon’s Kindle sold out in 5.5 hours and remained out of stock for almost five months?

Books are my favorite things in the world! Since I can remember, I have always had a book with me. Whether it was a trip to the mall, an overnight stay at the grandparents or a family vacation, I never left home without a book. While I will admit to having an extensive Kindle library, I do still prefer to read a physical book.

Following are a few of the well-known bookstores in the Pittsburgh area. I have not visited any of them, but after researching for this article, I plan to rectify that. Maybe I will see you there. 

City Books – image taken from Google

City Books

908 Galveston Ave. (in the North Side) 

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday by appointment only

Website: http://www.citybookspgh.com

City Books, Pittsburgh’s oldest bookstore, was established in 1984 under the ownership of Arlan Hess. City Books is a used bookstore, with most book prices under $10. Collectible and first editions are available around the $30 price point. Limited book sales happen online via the store’s Instagram account. Since City Books is predominately a used bookstore, it does not often carry newer titles. However, City Books offers a Bookshop.org storefront where readers can purchase new books from the distributor for direct home delivery. City Books also has a trade-in program, offering store credit for previously read books. The bookstore is very selective about its inventory, so if you wish to participate in the trade-in program, please email photos of your books to citybookspgh@gmail.com.

White Whale Bookstore front – image taken from Google

White Whale Bookstore 

4754 Liberty Ave.

Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Website: whitewhalebookstore.com

White Whale Bookstore is a family-owned, general-interest bookstore that opened in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville area in 2016. Its selection of books includes contemporary and literary fiction and nonfiction, poetry, history, philosophy, local authors, independent presses, children’s books and much more. When the pandemic hit, White Whale expanded to include an online book inventory. Today, you can either visit in person or shop online from the comfort of your own home. 

Amazing Books and Records – image taken from Google

Amazing Books and Records 

929 Liberty Ave. (downtown Pittsburgh)

Hours: Monday through Thursday 12-6 p.m., Friday and Sunday  12–4 p.m.

5858 Forbes Ave. (Squirrel Hill) 

Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m  

Website: amazingbooksandrecords.com

Amazing Books and Records is known for its free book or record deal: a free book or record with the purchase of three items (free item not to exceed $10). The company’s Liberty Avenue location first opened in 2013, and its Squirrel Hill location opened the following year. Both locations buy used books and records, so the company’s inventory is constantly growing. The company will purchase any books or records, but it’s best to check the website to see what genres are needed. While on the website, you can also browse the online inventory or use a link to preorder any new book at a discount. Amazing Books and Records also offer Book & (free) Beer Nights! — every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Squirrel Hill store and every Saturday about an hour after sunset until midnight so that you can drink while you browse. ID is required, and nonalcoholic beverages are available, so all ages are permitted. 

Caliban Book Shop – image taken from their website

Caliban Book Shop 

410 S Craig St.

Hours: Daily from 12-5:30 p.m.

Website: CalibanBooks.com

Caliban Book Shop is a used bookstore in the heart of Oakland near the Carnegie Museum of Art. The shop buys and sells used and rare books. They have a wide variety of books but tend to avoid purchasing bestsellers, romance novels, and the like. Their prices are about 25% less than online retailers. While they offer in-store shopping only, you can visit the website and preview some of the store’s inventory, including Caliban Book’s selection of rare books. The store also carries a mix of indie rock, ’60s pop, punk, Americana, folk, blues, and jazz albums. 

Shadyside Books – image taken from Google

Shadyside Books 

5900 Ellsworth Ave. 

Hours: Daily from 12-7 p.m.

Website: ShadysideBooks.com

Shadyside Books carries over 5,000 books in all fields, with specialties in history, arts, and the sciences. It is located on the second floor of the Caboodle Trading Post store in Shadyside. Books are available for purchase books both in-store and online. The store’s inventory is available online via their website, and new items are added frequently under the New Arrivals website tab. 

Whether you decide to visit these bookstores in person or online, I do hope you at least check them out or refer a friend. Print books are a dying art, so let’s do our part by shopping local and keeping books around for future generations. There’s no better feeling than the satisfaction one gets after finishing the last page of a hardcover novel.

Reese Witherspoon’s Bookclub – My Review

I took a bubble bath today. Well, I didn’t have anything to make the bubbles, so it was really just a bath with some calming lavender salts. Regardless of the kind of bath I took, I spent 40 minutes in the bath thinking about my life.

Naturally, I took a (very) full glass of wine – I am currently obsessed with Narcissi’s Black Raspberry wine – my phone (for music purposes only, I am very anti-social media when it comes to relaxing) and a book for entertainment. I honestly try my hardest at self-care. I keep a steady skin care regiment, I use a eye mask a few times a week, use hair masks on the weekends, and moisturize every inch of my annoyingly dry skin. I try my best, I really do, but there isn’t a self-care task I love more than a bubble bath, wine, music, and my current best seller.

A while ago, thanks to my love of Reese Witherspoon, books, and a lack of ideas for my Christmas list (circa 2020), I decided I would read every book from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Thanks to boredom, I created an entire spreadsheet of all of the books included complete with columns, highlights, and a section for notes.

To add to my super nerd status, I couldn’t wait to start reading and complete this list. Once I finish a book, I will update this chart, so make sure you check back!

Book TitleAuthorOwn BookGenreRating and Comments
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineGail HoneymanFiction-Drama9.5/10 – beautiful. I fell in love with Eleanor and all her quirks. I wish there was a little more with Raymond but the twist at the end was perfect!
The Alice NetworkKate QuinnFiction-Drama8/10 – great storyline. I enjoyed Eve’s character the most. Could easily find myself reading this again and again. 
The Lying GameRuth WareThriller8.5/10 – slow moving and then an abrupt end. The cheating was unnecessary between Isa and Luc
Little Fires EverywhereCeleste NgFiction-Drama6.5/10 – there was a lot of hype for this book and I honestly was not that interested. It was nice, but too many storylines for my liking. The messages were good, but it was not necessary for Bebe’s story. Also, not a fan of a mom treating her daughter like that…
The Rules of MagicAlice HoffmanFiction-Drama10/10 – have read twice so far. Prequel to Practical Magic. Beautiful story and great imagery
This is the Story of a Happy MarriageAnn Patchett

The Last Mrs. ParrishLiv ConstantineFiction-Drama9/10 – loved this! The twist was great! I could see myself reading this book repeatedly. I LOVED the three parts with different POVs. 
Braving the WildernessBrene Brown


The Light We LostJill Santopolo√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – beautifully written, but predicable ending. I loved that it was written like a letter to Gabe but then the end was an actual letter to their son. 
Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsBalli Kaur JaswalFiction – Drama7/10 – this was a fun story to read. I enjoyed learning more about the culture. The author mixed in different story types, which made this a compelling story.
HappinessHeather Harpham√ k

You Think It, I’ll Say ItCurtis Sittenfeld


Something in the WaterCatherine SteadmanThriller4/10 – Too much detail on unnecessary things. They were in so many places in the book it was hard to pick up on what was important and what was not. I really wanted to like this book, but I probably won’t read it again. Good concept, though.
Next Year in HavanaChanel CleetonFiction-Drama8.5/10 – beautiful story. Will read the sister’s other stories. The storyline was predictable, but I still really enjoyed this book.
Still LivesMaria Hummel√ k

Where the Crawdads SingDelia OwensFiction-Drama10/10 – WOW. I loved every minute of this book. Beautiful. It reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes. 
This is How It Always IsLaurie Frankel√ kFiction-Drama5/10 – eye opening book with a good story. I just could not get into it. 
The Other WomanSandie JonesThriller9.5/10 – Read this is about 24 hours. The twist at the end got me. 
One Day in DecemberJosie Silver√ kFiction-Drama7.5/10 – A easy to read love triangle story. It’s cliché but I enjoyed the story and would read again. 
The Library BookSusan Orlean

The ProposalJasmine Guillory√ kFiction-Drama6/10 – Cute and fun to read. It’s a very basic book but was lighthearted. Very predictable but would probably read again. 
Daisy Jones & The SixTaylor Jenkins Reid√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – SO GOOD. I actually thought that this was a true band and a true story. It is supposed to be based on Fleetwood Mac which makes this so much cooler. I read this so fast over Thanksgiving. Would love to possibly write my own story in this format – interview
The Night TigerYangsze ChooFiction – Drama8/10 – Very interesting story concept. This was a delightful book to read. I could see this being turned into multiple stories!
From ScratchTembi Locke


The CactusSarah Haywood√ kFiction – Drama
7/10 – I liked this one for the cliche story type. The main character is drab (but that’s the point), she falls for someone not her type, and it ends happily ever after.
Whisper NetworkChandler BakerFiction-Drama But w/ Murder4/10 – The beginning of each chapter was written in a different tone/POV from the rest of the chapter – almost like they were summarizing a feminist point before actually going into the story. I am all for feminism, but I wish there was just one tone/POV. It was slow and confusing. Just too many characters and POVs. 
The Last House GuestMegan MirandaFiction – Suspense
6/10 – I was very excited to read this one, but it fell short for me. Compelling, but I expected more of a thriller. 
The Secrets We KeptLaura Prescott

Fair PlayEve Rodsky


The Giver of StarsJojo MoyesFiction – Drama8/10 – Moyes is a fantastic author. I loved her Me Before You series and now I love this one! Her writing style puts you right there in the saddle delivering books. Great story! 
ConvictionDenise Mina
Fiction – Slight suspense
7/10 – I enjoyed this one. To be honest, it is not super memorable, but it was an easy read and a good concept. It tied in with a podcast.
Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid
Fiction
7/10 – I was very excited to read this one as I saw it featured everywhere. It was a good read with relatable characters. It was predictable, but still a good read.
The Scent KeeperErica Bauermeister Fiction – Drama8.5/10 – such a cool concept for a story. Everything is told from scents! I flew through this book because I have never read anything like it. 
The JetsettersAmanda Eyre Ward


UntamedGlennon Doyle

The Henna ArtistAlka Joshi


The Guest ListLucy FoleyThriller8/10 – little bit of a slow start and not enough closure for Hannah. Good twist on who the killer was and who was killed 
I’m Still HereAustin Channing Brown


Everything InsideEdwidge Danticat√ k

The Last Story of Mina LeeNancy Jooyoun KimFiction – Drama w/ some suspense6/10 – I liked how this story wove together stories of the mom and daughter separately. It’s an interesting story where you learn a lot about the culture. Definitely eye opening. 
His Only WifePeace Medie Adzo√ k

GroupChristie Tate


The Chicken SistersKJ Dell’Antonia√ k


OutlawedAnna North√ k


The SanatoriumSarah PearseThriller8/10 – this satisfied my thriller needs. Semi-predicable and a little bit of a letdown for an ending. Is there going to be a sequel? 
Infinite CountryPatricia Engel


Northern SpyFlynn Berry
Suspense
7.5/10 – Once you get past the first part of the book, you will not be able to put this down! The plot of the book was good and easy to follow.
The Last Thing He Told MeLaura DaveSuspense9/10 – I absolutely loved this one! The past few book selections were good, but this one blew them out of the water! I highly recommend.
Seven Days in June Tia Williams√ k
The Paper PalaceMiranda Cowley Heller
We Were Never HereAndrea BartzSuspense9/10 – Yes! This was an easy, yet great read. I finished in one sitting because I could not put the book down. Great twist, characters, and ending! Highly recommend.
L.A. WeatherMaria Amparo Escandion
SankofaChibundu Onuzo
The Island of Missing TreesElif Shafak√ k
Lucky Marissa Stapley
HonorThrity Umrigar
The Christie AffairNina de Gramont
The ClubEllery Lloyd
True BizSara Novic

If you have read any of these books, drop a comment and tell me what you loved about them! Or if you have any book suggestions, I am always on the lookout for a good book.

As always – Love, KT

KTWrites – Still Alice

I lost my grandma earlier this year to cancer. On good days, I find myself starting to call her cellphone to tell her something exciting. I start dialing her number and then I remember. She’s gone. On bad days I cry, a lot.

I miss a lot of things about her, but mostly I miss getting to say her name aloud, well my name for her, Grammy. I never realized how often I would say that word until I lost her. Now her name gets caught in my throat as if I am afraid to say it. I think I hesitate to say her name now because I know she can’t answer me, at least not in the way she used to. But I don’t want to be sad. I have been sad long enough. I want to talk about my Grammy because of what she means to me.

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, my Grammy was the picture of health. She was superwoman. She took an exercise class that made me feel weak and lazy! Besides a broken ankle, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t healthy. The only exception to that was the possibility that my Grammy had Alzheimer’s. Though a diagnosis was never given, and my family was split on their beliefs about the possibility, I believed it was possible. Alzheimer’s in genetic and her aunt had it. So it was possible.

During a trip to Italy in 2015, a friend of mine showed me Lisa Genova’s Still Alice. I started and finished the novel in the same day. I couldn’t put it down. I finally had something to help me understand what my Grammy was possibly dealing with. I remember sitting in the living room on my Grammy’s blue chair reading this book and wondering how similar her life could have been to Alice’s if the cancer had not taken her first.   

Still Alice is a fictional story about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. I will warn you that it is not an easy story to read not because the book was poorly written, but because of the emotions it stirs. Even though Still Alice is a work of fiction, the disease is real and there is no cure. Alzheimer’s attacks the brain, it steals memories, loses words, and eventually forgets how to communicate to the rest of the body. Lisa Genova gives us a story that shows the deterioration of Alice Howard’s life over a two-year period. Genova’s writing emphasizes the stages of Alzheimer’s and forces the reader to understand the inner battle that the victim fights every day.

 Still Alice opens with Alice pre-diagnosis. We learn that Alice is a highly respected woman. She is a Cognitive Psychology professor at Harvard University and is considered an expert in linguistics. Alice is giving a speech at Stanford when the first sign of Alzheimer’s appears. She couldn’t find the word. It wasn’t until the plane ride later that day that Alice remembered the word she was looking for, syntax.

I realize that losing a word does not mean that the person has Alzheimer’s. There could be many different explanations, but for Alice, this stuck with her and impacted her decision to go see her doctor. There were many other instances that factored into her decision to see her doctor, but this one opened the possibility to something being off.

That scares me. Something as common as forgetting a word or losing the name of something could be a symptom of a neurological disease. In one of the lines in the script before the start of the novel, Genova foreshadows the battle of Alzheimer’s and portrays neurons as being strangled by the disease. She writes, “whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.” This imagery is unsettling to me. It’s powerful and Ican’t help but wonder if this is what my Grammy went through before the cancer took her? If that’s the case, I don’t know which one hurt more: losing life’s memories and all that made my Grammy important or the cancer that took away her independence? I guess eventually, both diseases would take her independence. But neither one ever took her spirit.

Throughout the novel, Alice answers a few questions that she has written on her BlackBerry to test her cognitive abilities each day. The questions involve her home address, daughter’s birthday, current month, office address, and how many children does she have. Each chapter ends with Alice answering these questions. As the novel and the disease progress, Alice’s answers get less specific. Where her home address used to include the full postal address, it now has been simplified to just Cambridge. This subtle technique that Genova uses is one of my favorite parts of the novel. I love how a simple four question test can show how detailed responses become one-word answers. The names of Alice’s children become just the number three showing that even the names of loved ones cannot win against Alzheimer’s.  

One of the more powerful and emotional quotes from the novel deals with love. Towards the end of the novel, Alice asks her daughter Lydia what would happen when she no longer recognized Lydia and didn’t know that she loved her. Lydia responds that she will tell Alice she loves her, and that Alice will believe her. This causes Alice to wonder; “But will I always love her? Does my love for her reside in my head or my heart?” (Genova 267). Science says head while family says heart.

My Grammy never forgot any of her family members. She might mix up our names, but even I do that sometimes. If the cancer didn’t take her and the Alzheimer’s was diagnosed, I think that if she ever came to forget my face, she could never forget her love for me. I don’t think you feel love based on a face or even a memory. Instead, I think you feel love, literally. Almost like a warmth that makes you feel safe and not alone. You don’t have an explanation to why you feel it, you just know that you do. I choose to believe that not even Alzheimer’s can take that feeling away.

Still Alice is a heartbreaking story that resonates with you long after you have turned the last page. It doesn’t matter if you know someone with Alzheimer’s personally or not, Alice’s story will make you see how much the diseases takes from everyone. For Alice, the pain was felt by her husband, her three children, her colleagues, students, and even by the coffeeshop worker that she visited before teaching. Mostly though, Alice herself felt the pain alone. She had a support group and loved ones, but only she truly understood what was happening; “So even when I feel completely normal, I know I’m not. It’s not over, it’s just a rest” (Genova 186).

Alzheimer’s disease is not curable and there is not a true, 100% accurate test to diagnose it. With the help of books like this, we, as a community, can talk about the importance of changing this. The disease is not just for the elderly. Alice was in her 50s when she was diagnosed. Some people start becoming symptomatic even earlier. Still Alice has taught me to have patience with those that are suffering with Alzheimer’s because we will never truly be able to see the battle they are fighting every second of every day alone in their minds. Listen to them, have empathy, and don’t treat them like they are incapable of living. During one of the last good days, Alice gives her final speech for a Dementia Care Conference. In her speech she reminds us, “just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second if it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter” (Genova 293). Today always matters and it should never be wasted. You don’t get a redo.

  • KTWrites

Genova, Lisa. Still Alice. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. Book.